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Farmers and forest landowners interested in Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) or Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) producer contracts need to apply by May 19th for a second round of funding in fiscal year 2023.

MADISON, Wis., April 13, 2023 – Farmers and forest landowners will want to plan ahead and sign up early for United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) conservation funding. Jeremy Bennett, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Acting State Conservationist in Wisconsin, announced that farmers and forest landowners interested in Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) or Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) producer contracts need to apply by May 19, 2023 for a second round of funding in fiscal year 2023.

Although NRCS accepts applications year-round at all USDA Service Centers in Wisconsin, applications received after May 19th will automatically be deferred to the next funding cycle. Farmers and landowners interested in receiving financial assistance through these programs are encouraged to apply now.

EQIP and RCPP are the primary programs available to farmers and landowners for farm and woodland conservation work, offering funding for more than 120 basic conservation practices. Last year, Wisconsin NRCS invested $36 million in conservation practices through EQIP and RCPP practices.

“Through the Farm Bill and Inflation Reduction Act, NRCS can provide financial assistance for conservation practices that improve soil health, water and air quality, and other natural resources,” said Bennett. “By submitting EQIP or RCPP applications in advance, NRCS staff will be allowed sufficient time to develop a comprehensive plan, that aligns with the applicant’s conservation goals.”

All eligible applications received by May 19, 2023, will be prioritized, evaluated, and ranked for funding in 2023. Farmers should contact their local USDA Service Center to get started on producer eligibility and planning. Bennett reminds farmers who are interested in practices that may require permits, such as manure storage or streambank restoration, to begin planning and seeking permits as soon as possible. Applicants with shovel-ready projects (designs completed and permit applications submitted) will receive a higher ranking in select fund pools.

Sign-up opportunities are open for Climate Smart Agriculture & Forestry – Inflation Reduction Act programs, and several other landscape-based initiatives. Special initiatives are available for socially disadvantaged and other historically underserved producers, such as Tribal Nations, veterans, and beginning farmers, at increased payment rates. All of these initiatives offer technical and financial assistance through EQIP or RCPP.

Climate Smart Agriculture & Forestry – Inflation Reduction Act (CSAF-IRA): The Inflation Reduction Act provides additional funds to NRCS specifically to address climate change mitigation through activities that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve carbon storage using a scientifically identified sub-set of practices. The benefits are two-fold: producers improve the health, productivity, resiliency, and profitability of their operations while mitigating the impacts of climate change for our nation.

Conservation Planning Activities (CPA), Design Implementation Activities (DIA), and Conservation Evaluation and Monitoring Activities (CEMA): CPAs: Activities resulting in a conservation plan which documents client decisions regarding selected alternatives – including identification of desired primary and supporting practices that the client would like to use to treat identified resource concerns. DIAs: Activities that allow for development of specific practice designs, management prescriptions, or other instructions that the client can implement into the conservation practice or system of conservation practices. CEMAs: Activities that include evaluation, monitoring, testing, or assessment for a specific purpose, to complete practice implementation requirements, or to determine the effectiveness of conservation practices and activities.

Northeast Wisconsin Forestry and Wildlife Partnership: The Northeast Wisconsin Forestry and Wildlife Partnership project has been developed through the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership (JCLRP) to address wildfire threats, water quality, and wildlife habitat. Desired landscape-level outcomes include: reduction in storm-caused fuel loads and fire risk; increase in water quality due to decreased sediment, greater access to habitat for aquatic organisms, and decreased or maintained stream temperatures;  increase in suitable habitat for golden-winged warblers, brook trout, and monarch butterflies; and improve forest health due to oak wilt prevention, reduction of emerald ash borer impacts, appropriate stand stocking and shifts in composition to resilient tree species.

Organic Transition Initiative (OTI): NRCS will help producers adopt the new organic management standard, which allows flexibility for producers to get the assistance and education they need such as attending workshops or requesting help from experts or mentors. It supports conservation practices required for organic certification and may provide foregone income reimbursement for dips in production during the transition period.

Urban Agriculture and Forestry: As American agriculture continues to grow in new directions, NRCS conservation assistance is growing along with it. To encourage and support urban agriculture Wisconsin will offer targeted funding to support Urban Agriculture and Forestry producers.

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI): Through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, NRCS offers financial assistance to agricultural producers for implementing practices that improve water quality in selected watersheds. Eligible watersheds include Door-Kewaunee Rivers, Lower Fox River, Manitowoc-Sheboygan, Milwaukee River, Oconto River, Peshtigo River, Pensaukee River, Upper Fox River, Wolf River, and Lake Winnebago watersheds. 

Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI): The overall goals of the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative are to improve water quality by minimizing contributions of phosphorus and nitrogen to the surface waters in the basin and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico. Within the larger Rush River watershed, five sub-watersheds are eligible for MRBI funding: Town of Martell-Rush River, Goose Creek-Trimbelle River, Spring Creek-Trimbelle River, Little Trimbelle River, and Crystal Springs Coulee-Rush River. 

National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI): The National Water Quality Initiative is designed to help individual agricultural producers take actions to reduce the runoff of sediment, nutrients, and pathogens into waterways where water quality is a critical concern. NRCS provides targeted funding for financial and technical assistance in small watersheds most in need and where farmers can use conservation practices to make a difference. Eligible watersheds include Bear Lake-Little Wolf River in Waupaca County, Town of La Prairie & City of Beloit Lower Rock River East in Rock County, North Branch Little River in Oconto County, and Sinsinawa River in Grant County.

Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP): The Regional Conservation Partnership Program promotes coordination between NRCS and its partners to deliver conservation assistance to producers and landowners through partnership or easement agreements, or program contacts. Current active projects for water quality improvement are located within the Lower Fox River, Sugar River, and Yahara River watersheds. RCPP funding is also available in the Driftless Area to improve habitat and water quality, select counties in Northern Wisconsin to improve Golden-winged and Kirtland’s warblers’ habitats, and select areas of Southern Wisconsin to improve soil health and protect agriculturally productive farmland.

Landowners interested in applying for EQIP or RCPP funding should contact their local NRCS office at the USDA Service Center for their county. For more information, visit the NRCS Wisconsin webpage.


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